Budi as the Malay Mind: A Philosophical Study of Malay Ways of Reasoning and Emotion in Peribahasa
This research is a first scientific and theoretical attempt to look into the logic and emotion
of the Malays from their proverbs, peribahasa. Fascinated by the conclusions of Goodwin
& Wenzel (1979⁄1981) that there are parallels between what the logic textbooks teach and
what the Anglo-American proverbs teach, the author sets his objectives to explore
whether the proverbs of Malay culture indeed illustrate a significant number of logical
principles as well. The author proves that the same “socio-logic” as described by
Goodwin & Wenzel (1979⁄1981) can also be discovered in peribahasa. Nevertheless, he
rejects the dialectical approach (normally engaged by the western tradition), and believes
that the ways of Malay argumentation are rather monolectical (non-dialectical). Apart
from this socio-logic rationality, which represents the realm of the mind, there are also
rather strong elements of emotions as shown by the regular use of hati as the source of
passion in Malay proverbial literature. This interesting contrast of a reason-emotion
relationship, according to the author, is always akin to the up-down movement of a
thinking see-saw, and the focus of striking a balance between this ‘contradiction’ is how
skilful an arguer will be in using the concept of budi as his fulcrum. The art of argument
in this sense will then be determined by the acumen of a rhetor to synthesise the harmony
between akal budi (the realm of budistic reason) and hati budi (the realm of budistic
passion). As such, the ideal state of the Malay mind or the way of resolving disagreement
(argument) is how reason and emotion can work together under the mediation of budi.
However, at times when the arguer ignores the rational dimension of budi (akal budi),
then budi (i.e. budi pekerti) will appear as something rather ceremonial, whereby if the
hati-budi is being eclipsed, then the soul and sublimity of culture will be rather nonhumane
and monotonous. Therefore, the person who can motivate himself⁄herself into
achieving the summit of this ideal state is a budiman (the person of wisdom). Drawing his
evidences from various sources, viz. historical, etymological, geographical, sociological
and philosophical, be it textual or contextual insight, the author further elaborates that this
conceptual Malay mind – budi – is a Malay cultural construct, which was smartly
assembled and developed as a result of culturing falsafah air (philosophy of water) –
representing the physical form (body) of maritime culture, and adoration of semangat
padi (the spirit of paddy) – representing the soul of their mind. This molecular budi, as he
believes, is a crystallisation of cultural insight after going through centuries of various
civilisation dialogues and intermarriages. The author, therefore, suggests that “the theory
of budi and its networks,” what he would like it to be called, should be used as the
important platform for researchers, who are interested to understand the Malay mind
generally or the Malay logic, rhetoric or philosophy particularly.

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